In images: support for Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners

Following the mass hunger strike of almost 2000 Palestinian prisoners, and the numerous individual hunger strikes, Palestinians have been raising their voices on the issue of prisoners. In Ramallah, protesters are taking to the streets demanding the Palestinian Authority take a strong stance for the country’s political prisoners held by Israel. Hundreds more have held regular demonstrations for months outside the Israeli Ofer prison, despite the excessive Israeli military aggression. The issue is larger than the end of administrative detention, or the allowance of family visits. Protesters are demanding complete freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel. Within the occupier’s jails, prisoners are passing the torch between each other as one hunger striker follows another. Today diabetic prisoner Akram Rikhawi has been on hunger strike for 84 days and is at imminent risk of dying.

At the forefront of support from outside the prisons are Palestine’s youth. Battling not only the Zionist state but the indifference of their own political leaders, these youth have dwindled from thousands during the mass hunger strikes to dozens. Nonetheless the activists remain determined to continue the struggle against Israeli apartheid and the resulting imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians, as well as to stir up the support of their own people.

My interest in the issues at hand are greater than my position as a photographer and at the best and most powerful demonstrations I was participating not photographing, thus the following collection is incomplete. It begins on April 26 when I joined a protest at Ofer prison.

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

A journalist wearing a neon press jacket shot with a tear gas canister from close range | 26 April 2012, Ofer Prison

A woman falls after being shot in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet | 26 April 2012, Ofer Prison

Two men are attended to after being shot with rubber-coated steel bullets | 26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli military opened fire on the demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

Women approach the Israeli soldiers as they fire at the demonstration | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

Me above the ‘skunk’ vehicle | Photo was taken by someone using my camera | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

A Palestinian man holds on to me resist my arrest despite us both having been repeatedly pepper sprayed | Photo was taken by someone using my camera | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

A protester keels after being shot | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

A roadblock built to prevent the Israeli military jeep from pursuing Palestinian protesters | 4 May, 2012, Ofer prison

Rally for the hunger-striking prisoners organized by the leftist parties, the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine | 6 May 2012, Ramallah

Rally for the hunger-striking prisoners organized by the leftist parties, the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine | 6 May 2012, Ramallah

Demonstrators march wearing the actual uniforms worn by Palestinians in Israeli jails | 6 May 2012, Ramallah

6 May 2012, Ramallah

6 May 2012, Ramallah

Demonstrators burn the occupier’s flag in the down-town clock circle of Ramallah | 6 May 2012

Activists close the central Manara roundabout in Ramallah demanding the Palestinian Authority take action for Palestinian political prisoners | 8 May 2012

Palestinian activists close the central Manara roundabout in Ramallah demanding the Palestinian Authority take action for Palestinian political prisoners | 8 May 2012

Palestinian activists close the central Manara roundabout in Ramallah demanding the Palestinian Authority take action for political prisoners | 8 May 2012

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | June 5, 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 5 June 2012, Ofer prison

The windows of a house near to Ofer prison entrance were broken from tear gas and rubber-coated bullet fire | 5 June 2012, Ofer prison

Protesters duck as rubber-coated bullets are fired openly on the demonstration | 5 June 2012, Ofer prison

5 June 2012, Ramallah

Marchers in Ramallah block a down-town street | 5 June 2012, Ramallah

10 June 2012, Ramallah

Protesters hold signs urging drivers to ‘honk for the prisoners’ | 10 June 2012, Ramallah

Protesters hold signs urging drivers to ‘honk for the prisoners’ | 10 June 2012, Ramallah

Demonstrators play soccer at the entrance of Ofer prison to symbolize Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak’s hunger strike | 11 June 2012, Ofer prison

Demonstrators play soccer at the entrance of Ofer prison to symbolize Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak’s hunger strike | 11 June 2012, Ofer prison

A demonstrator was injured in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet | 11 June 2012

20 June 2012, Ramallah

21 June 2012, Ofer prison

Protesters holding cutlery to symbolize the hunger-striking prisoners refuse to move despite orders | 21 June 2012, Ofer prison

21 June 2012, Ofer Prison

21 June 2012, Ofer prison

Israel opens fire on the Global March to Jerusalem in Qalandia and across Palestine

Rana Hamadeh | March 31, 2012

Yesterday the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) opened fire on marchers as they headed towards Jerusalem marking Palestinian Land Day.

The Global March to Jerusalem is an initiative taking place across the world, with hundreds of thousands of people involved. Marches were organized within Palestine, 1948 territories, and Gaza, as well as all surrounding countries and parts of Asia, North America, and Europe. Among other things, the march was calling for an end to the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and Palestine at large, the right of return for all refugees, and the protection of Jerusalem’s non-Jewish holy sites which are currently at risk. At least two hundred people were injured by the IOF in protests across Palestine, and one young man was killed in Gaza.

The Israeli military employed a series of weapons on the unarmed protesters, including the ‘siren’, which emits a defeaning ringing; the ‘skunk truck’ which propels torrents of a sewage-like liquid; rubber-coated steel bullets; sound bombs; high-velocity tear gas; and live ammunition.

Soldiers prepare to fire at protesters. Behind them the 'skunk truck', which propels sewage-like liquid, is parked. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

When I arrived at the protest area, people were running away as tear gas was fired. I ran towards the soldiers, trying to get to the area behind them where journalists were set up. The ‘siren’ was already put in use, getting unbearably louder as I approached, and the street already had a grim look only minutes into the march. People hid behind cement blocks and smoke filled the air. As soon as I reached the soldiers, the ‘siren’ became a quiet ringing. The technology used allows the IOF to propel the sound in a specific direction.

Israeli soldiers stand beside a cement block reading 'together we'll break the wall' | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

As I snapped photographs of the abundant Israeli soldiers in the area, and the murals covering the apartheid wall behind them, the ‘skunk truck’ moved forward and arbitrarily fired sewage water at the people, houses, and shops in its reach. Journalists ran for cover to save their cameras from damage. Others ran to save themselves from being marked with the foul smell for days to come. A mist carried back to where I stood and I almost choked. The scent is stronger and lingers longer than would even real sewage. One young woman marched up to the truck, and was drenched, but managed to place a Palestinian flag on it.

The steady stream of 'skunk' water fired by the IOF can be seen in the background as journalists run away. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

When they finished with the ‘skunk’, the soldiers got into jeeps and moved forward, firing tear gas at the same time. The protesters ran in a frenzy to find clear air and avoid arrest by the approaching army.

Protesters run as soldiers approach and fire tear gas | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

I ran for cover behind a building from the onslaught of tear gas grenades. A handful of others joined me and we thought we had reached safety when the smell of tear gas overcame us. We ran deeper behind the building, stepping through piles of garbage and trying to find relief from the gas filling our eyes and lungs. To both directions was gas. There was no options. Most of us fell to the ground choking and trying to stay conscious. Someone was desperately shouting the name of a blind girl who they had lost track of in the chaos. When I was able to open my eyes a slit, I saw that the soldiers had come to our hideout and were beckoning everyone out. In the chaos of the moment we didn’t think about disobeying. As soon as we were out, a commander targeted one of the boys among us. It was an arbitrary choice. Another woman and I stood in between the soldiers and the young man, pointing out  their discrimination in that whatever he had done, we had also done. We attempted to de-arrest but soldiers surrounded us and aggressively took the young man away, still choking on tear gas.

A young Palestinian man is arbitrarily targeted by Israeli soldiers. We unsuccessfully attempt to de-arrest. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Fadi Arouri 30/03/2012

Across the street I found a group of soldiers banging on the door of an apartment building, trying to break it open. Faces of women and children looked down at them from the windows above. They broke the door’s window and continued to hammer the door until it was bent out of shape and able to be opened.

An Israeli soldier stands with his hands on his gun as others behind him break down the door to a Palestinian apartment building. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

Israeli soldiers break the door to a Palestinian apartment building. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

When they finally go the door open, a group of soldiers stamped into the building and up the stairs. The last few walked backwards, with their guns pointed at us, comically as if myself and a few other journalists would attack. Other soldiers stayed at the door, guarding it. The group of soldiers made their way through the building then emerged on the roof from where they would shoot rubber-coated steel bullets at a wider range of people.

I grew frustrated of standing among the soldiers with the other journalists so amidst gun fire I ran back towards the protesters. The scene was much grimmer from this perspective. Every few minutes people would shout for an ambulance and the wounded would be carried away.

A young man is carried to an ambulance after being injured by a rubber-coated steel bullet. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

As time passed, the shooting of rubber-coated bullets seemed to escalate and people were no longer seen in the center of the street, but rather pressed against buildings and behind walls.

An injured man's feet are visible as medic volunteers attend to him.| Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

An injured medic volunteer is carried into an ambulance. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

It was draining to continue to duck at the sound of gunfire and watch as the ambulance workers crowded around a person, so eventually I asked a dozen people to come walk up to the soldiers with me. Many agreed so we stepped out into the street, arms and flags in the air and began to walk. The army continued to fire. I looked behind me and only one person was left walking with me. “Don’t worry about it, Rana,” he reassured me, “keep going.”

We stayed motivated and it was liberating to walk unabashedly towards the Israeli soldiers, dressed in military armor and carrying their range of weapons. At the sound of gun fire, we turned our heads away so that at least if injured, our eyes would be protected. We didn’t flinch as soldiers fired tear gas over our heads.

Marching towards Israeli soldiers. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Bahaa Nasser 30/03/2012

A handful of others caught up as we approached the soldiers. The idea was to stand in front of them and prevent them from firing at the protesters behind us. We were chanting slogans like, “no justice- no peace”, and “we are peaceful- what are you?” At first I didn’t see many journalists and the soldiers got aggressive quickly. An Israeli soldier grabbed the Palestinian flag from my hands and threw it on the ground. Me and another girl tried desperately to reach it but we were hit and shoved away.

We linked arms and formed a chain. When the Israeli military tried to move to the side, we moved with them. They attacked the group, clearly trying to break us up and make arrests. Soldiers kicked and beat the group. When one young woman put her arms in the air and shouted that she was unarmed, a soldier picked up a rock and smashed her hand with it. The young man to my left was dragged away and I felt myself taken in a headlock and pushed to the ground. Bodies and feet pressed on me and I focused only on keeping my head from hitting the pavement as chaos ensued around me. I felt people pulling, pushing, and hitting me. When I could lift my head to see, the same friend who had initially marched with me was holding on to me, and I am certain saved me from arrest.

I learned later that the other activists had been similarly attacked, but had managed to prevent any other arrests. We stood there stunned, injured, and exhausted.

We continued to chant as we backed away and returned to the rest of the protesters. Only a few meters away they began to shoot again and we saw more injuries carried into ambulances. Throughout the day I witnessed several people bleeding from injuries by rubber-coated bullets, but refusing to take up space in the ambulances.

Later, after many had left and the protesters were few, we were standing against a wall and turning our heads at the sound of gunfire. Suddenly, a rubber-coated bullet hit a young man standing beside us in the face. His expression was frozen as if he had lost consciousness with his eyes still open. We shouted for an ambulance and he was carried away.

A young man hit just under the eye by a rubber-coated steel bullet. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

That was our final straw and we decided to head home, having been at the protest for about six hours. Clashes continued until at least 10pm when my friend called me to say he was finally leaving, and completely drenched in ‘skunk water’.

These experiences are so common in the Palestinian struggle that one easily becomes normalized in order to cope. As activists, this is something we are fighting, and nonetheless we are all deeply affected by these experiences whether we can still find the passion to express it or not.  Understand only that this was not a unique day. This is a regular response to the peaceful protesting which occurs at least weekly across Palestine. A young man being arbitrarily chosen for arrest is something every family has experienced. The IOF breaking down a door in order to use the roof of as a military base is a common practice. Breaking the windows of an ambulance with gun fire, targeting journalists, firing at homes and shops, can all be witnessed in a trip to Palestine.

Qalandia: White sky of tear gas looms over apartheid wall construction

[delayed publishing this one on my blog because Mustafa Tamimi was murdered on the same day in Nabi Saleh]

by Rana H.
9 December 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

Peaceful protesters came face to face with Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in Qalandia on Friday before soldiers began to fire tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the civilian group including children, women, and elders. Qalandia village is protesting the construction of the apartheid wall that will cut through their land.

Following the Friday prayer, a procession marched down a dirt path flattened by Israeli bulldozers to a fenced in area where the bulldozers were parked. Two jeeps full of soldiers were quick to arrive and met the march at the fence.

Demonstrators chant in front of Israeli Occupation Forces | 9/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

“We resist with peace, as we learned from Bil’in!” chanted the demonstration, among other slogans that criticized results of Israel’s occupation such as the wall. “We are here to resist against the settlements and the wall that steal our land and divide us,” said one of the protest leaders. The procession was joined by activists from Israel, France, America, Canada, and Switzerland.

A Palestinian girl waves her flag in the face of Israeli soldiers | 9/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Although protesters were peacefully chanting, and not advancing, the Israeli military began showing aggressive movements such as pointing guns directly at protesters and pulling out tear gas and sound bombs, hinting at the assault to come. Some soldiers also began to snap photographs of protesters’ faces, despite that they had not committed any crime.

Palestinian demonstrators stand on concrete blocks in the face of IOF soldiers. | 9/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Israeli military orders protesters to descend from the concrete blocks. Demonstrators maintained that they have the right to stand peacefully. | 9/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

A protester hung the Palestinian flag onto the fence surrounding the bulldozers and the flag easily stuck onto the barbed wire. At this point, a couple IOF soldiers became enraged and began to push and strike protesters, including at least three women.

As clashes begin, an Israeli soldier shoves a female protester away. | 9/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

As clashes begin, an Israeli soldier threatens protesters. | 9/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

As clashes begin, an Israeli soldier strikes a Palestinian man | 9/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Chaos broke out as the IOF unleashed sound bombs, causing demonstrators to try to distance themselves from soldiers. Before people could get away, tear gas began to fly through the air. Soldiers continued to shoot tear gas at the people: a procession including many women, children, and elders who were visibly unarmed and had not committed any crime.

The cloudy white sky made the high-velocity tear gas projectiles almost impossible to see until they landed among the crowd – an incredibly dangerous situation to fire in, which could have ended lethally as was the case in An Nabi Saleh when Mustafa Tamimi was killed after being shot in the head with a tear gas canister.

Soon after, soldiers began to fire rubber-coated steel bullets as well.

Despite the obvious danger of facing these weapons, protesters continued to attempt to re-gather themselves and continue chanting for almost one hour. Young boys stood unabashedly in the front lines, dodging rubber-coated bullets and gas.

Eventually, protest leaders called the group back to the village and the demonstration ended.

Israel sends military to funeral of Mustafa Tamimi, ending in violence against mourners

The Israeli Occupational Forces murdered Mustafa Tamimi last Friday at Nabi Saleh’s weekly protest, as he and a friend followed the armoured jeeps demanding that they leave the village. They were unarmed. They were facing one of the best-equipped militaries in the world. The photos are candid; an Israeli soldier is hiding behind the doors of his jeep, just the barrel of his tear-gas gun emerging.  But Mustafa and his friend Ibrahim were not afraid. The soldier shoots the canister as a bullet, from a couple meters away, aimed for Mustafa’s head. Then the jeep drives away.

Yesterday, Ibrahim told me of moment he thought his friend had just ducked down. He goes, rolls his friend over, and “of what I can say about it, it is worse than words can say. The whole half of his face was blown off … there was a pool of blood gathering under him. His whole body was trembling. It started from his feet, then up to his arms, then it reached his chest, and then his head, and then a gasp came out and I’m sure at that moment he died… Maybe later on they revived his heart for a while, but I knew that his soul had left.”

May he rest in peace, the martyr Mustafa Tamimi, 28 years old | Fri 9/12/2011 Active Stills

Commemoration

On Saturday we took to Ramallah’s streets chanting slogans like “the blood of our martyrs is not cheap!” and calling for the next Intifada. In my parents’ time the stores would have closed and the streets would be packed, instead many people walked by on the sidewalk and continued their conversation. What happened to the respect we had for our martyrs who die fighting against everyday Israeli brutality? Nonetheless, emotions were high. The youth were angry. This was their brother, their friend, or their comrade in the struggle for freedom. Many people broke down into tears in the streets, wailing. One who had sustained a rubber-coated bullet to the head at the same protest passed out and was sent to hospital. Women screamed out and grabbed each other for support. And hardest of all for me was to see the men turn into boys, because it reminded me that even the strongest and bravest people are just human and still have a heart that can shatter.

People gathered to commemorate the life and death of Mustafa Tamimi in Ramallah | Sat 10/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Marching through Ramallah's streets for the martyr Mustafa Tamimi | Sat 10/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Sunday morning a couple hundred people gathered at the hospital to receive Mustafa’s body into the ambulance. Men carried Mustafa on a plank on their shoulders, as I’ve seen time and again in photos. This time we marched, we marched with him. We got into cars and followed Mustafa to Nabi Saleh. As we neared the village, we began to see Israeli soldiers stationed along the route. Two military jeeps joined the caravan of cars. We saw the jeep equipped to fire gas, and the truck that shoots skunk-water. A girl in my car pulled down the window and screamed “you killed him!” at a group of soldiers. “Fuck you!” replied one.

My hands were shaking. It wasn’t a surprise but it still hurt to see – how could Israel send military to this man’s funeral after murdering him? Was it purely to disrespect Mustafa & his family?

There were at least 2000 people once we congregated in the village. Although Ramallah has become distracted, the surrounding villages are still united and came to pay respects. We marched to the mosque and as many people as could fit went in and prayed the noon prayer, and the janazah prayer for Mustafa. His body was then taken to his house, then to the cemetery and placed into the ground. People chanted and gave speeches with a deep seated conviction.

Mustafa Tamimi's body is brought to his home one last time | Sat 11/12/2011 Int'l Communities Against Israel

A few images stay stark in my mind. A little girl looking concerned as her mother breaks into tears. A young boy holding his friend and nuzzling him, trying to comfort him – his expression saying that he wished there was something more he could do. A young man collapsing and being held by his friends as he weeps. Women leading the chanting as their shouts broke into wails. And of course, the men carrying Mustafa’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag with keffiyeh on his head.

Only minutes after the funeral ended, the Israeli military is shooting tens of the same tear gas canister that killed Mustafa. Once again, they were breaking the law by aiming them at people instead of shooting them in an arch. I jump to the side and one speeds past me at stomach level. Cars are trying to get home and are being hit by the canisters. Tear gas fills our lungs and make it impossible to get air in; our eyes and faces burn. The worst part is if you panic. You hyperventilate and feel yourself suffocating. So I stay calm.

A man is hit in the arm by a tear gas canister fired minutes after the funeral of Mustafa Tamimi ended | 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

I cannot understand why the soldiers operating these weapons did not feel shame at what they were doing. The next thing to come out was the skunk-water truck: this shoots, at far distances, a clear liquid with a sewage-like smell that will likely cause you to burn or throw out your clothes if you’re touched. Mostly it just leaves the village smelling like shit.

Israeli "skunk truck" shoots a sewage-like liquid at protesters just minutes after Mustafa's funeral draws to a close|Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Suddenly people were calling us back. At the bottom of the valley were several more soldiers stationed, and people wanted to confront them. I arrived to many of the women holding posters of Mustafa Tamimi into the face of these soldiers and screaming, WHO KILLED MUSTAFA? over and over again. A man was beside me, chanting “who killed him? Who killed him?…. Who killed my brother?” My heart plummeted.

"Who killed Mustafa?" | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

For a moment, I saw true fear in these soldiers’ eyes. They retreated, tripping over their feet. MURDERERS, MURDERERS, chanted the crowd of mostly young women. I noticed their commander budge past me and felt something hit my foot. I looked around for it as I saw him run to the side. 5 seconds later a sound bomb exploded. The ground moved under our feet and I couldn’t hear anything for half a minute. Tear gas went flying at protesters that had moved away slightly from the soldiers. They kept throwing sound bombs into our midst. One exploded on the back of my leg and I felt the burn.

Suddenly out of the commotion I saw two soldiers had an Israeli activist strangled and pressed to the concrete.

An Israeli activist is pressed by the neck into the concrete then arrested | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Then soldiers moved in to grab Jonathon Pollack, a well known Israeli activist. There was a railing inbetween them and a soldier had him in a chokehold and was strangling him against the railing. People grabbed onto him and soldiers tried to shove and kick them out of the way. I saw Jonathon’s face, so pale. More soldiers approached and me and a Spanish friend tried to stay inbetween. One soldier pushed the Spanish man backwards over the railing, landing on his back. Another shoved me, then lifted his leg and kicked me to the ground.

A soldier raises his fist towards a Palestinian woman, while another attempts to make an arrest, although an Israeli woman stands in his way (both wearing black) | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

People managed to protect Jonathon from arrest, but he was visibly weak. He had to be carried by others to safer ground but as they tried to get away, soldiers shot gas at them even though he was visibly injured and they were retreating. They had nowhere to go. They couldn’t carry him up the hill or take him to the road with the soldiers. It was only after all the commotion I’m about to describe that an ambulance arrived on the road and took Jonathon while soldiers attempted to arrest him.

An Israeli activist is carried after being choked by Israeli soldiers and inhaling tear gas | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

On the street, soldiers had officially given way to their brutal nature. A soldier grabbed a picture of Mustafa out of a girls hands and crumpled it up. I could see the fury and sorrow build up in her as she tried to get it back from him, screaming from her depths at this arrogant soldier. Not one soldier interfered when another kicked a woman, grabbed her by the hair, or dragged her across the street. Soldiers had decided to go for a friend of mine from France. I grabbed onto his body. We were knocked to the ground. Another girl grabbed onto me.

Being knocked over while trying to hold onto a French man targeted for arrest | Sun 11/12/2011 Anne Paq/Activestills

In the chaos I remember struggling to hold on as we were hit from behind. One soldier had his elbow on the French man’s neck turning his face red. It became clear to me that the soldiers were trying to arrest the men that were with us. My Spanish friend was targeted. All the women began to throw their bodies over these two men. One of the girls, Linah, was shouting like a mantra: “You’re not taking any of us. You’re not taking any of us. You’re not taking any of us,” and it still rings in my ears.

Women throw their bodies over those of the men that Israeli soldiers arbitrarily targeted for arrest | Sun 11/12/2011

A soldier presses a French activist to the ground with his elbow and later arrests him | Sun 11/12/2011 Int'l Communities Against Israel

They did manage to arrest the French man, but the Spanish one, the women clung onto, and some men made a circle around the women, and they walked him to the rail and let him go to run up the hill. While the others were busy with one man I saw the soldiers go for a man I don’t know. We clung on to each other to try to resist arrest but soldiers were trying to pull me away. One finally grabbed me by the hair and threw me to the ground. A pair of legs were over my head and a man, that seemed to come from one of the cars that stopped to watch, began shouting at the soldier in Hebrew: She’s my sister! My sister! The soldier didn’t care.

I don't know who snapped this photo, it was in the newspaper this morning. It's not the kind of picture I ideally would like to circulate but if it shows a hint of reality, I can get over it.

The rest is chaos in my mind. We refused to leave anyone behind as we finally retreated up the hill. We took our time though and screamed Criminals! Animals! at the soldiers as they aimed for us with tear gas. One of the men photographing was on the brink of unconsciousness and others struggled to get him up the hill. They urged him to breathe, “I can’t…” he whispered, and they quickened their step.

This experience is a drop in the sea of the systemic oppression of living in an occupied state without basic civil rights. Not to mention the influence of the media.  “You were let off easy,” one Palestinian man told me, “once my mother tried to get in the way of my arrest and was punched in the face, then truly beat. A camera is our strongest tool.”

May the people of Nabi Saleh see their land returned and live to see a day without an occupation over their heads.

As I’ve reported before, every week since 2009, the village of Nabi Saleh goes out to demonstrate against the theft of their land and water spring by the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish. The final and symbolic goal of their protest is to reach the spring although it is always guarded by several soldiers. This week after the protest ended, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the hill. So instead a friend and I picked flowers while soldiers watched us suspiciously from a distance. Eventually we climbed our way back down to near the soldiers, picking flowers, and in the end I wanted to see what the fresh water spring looks like.

I walked alone up to a stunned soldier standing outside his jeep. ‘I just want to take a picture and leave,’ I told him.
‘But there are soldiers up there’ he replied, seeming to have no idea how they would react. I quickly moved on.
Up at the spring were about eight soldiers, who all got up and squinted at me. When I told them what I wanted they huddled and began to speak on the radio. ‘Don’t move until we get a reply’ one told me. The spring was more beautiful than I had expected, but the pictures can speak for themselves.
The soldier who had met me at the bottom had followed up, probably interested to see what would happen. ‘You just want to take pictures and go? Do it then. Then go.”
I snapped a few, then the radio seemed to get back to the group of soldiers. “You have to leave now. This is a closed military zone. You have thirty seconds. Where are you from?”
Palestine, I replied, and kept taking pictures. Another soldier came and kicked the flowers I was photographing. I looked up at the others, “who is this animal?”
“Be careful with your words” was the only reply.

Nabi Saleh's water spring, currently annexed by the illegal settlement of Halamish | 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Nabi Saleh has been a victim of IOF violence, night raids, siege, curfew, checkpoints, and arrests, but until Friday no one had ever been martyred. When witnessing the violence iniflicted by the IOF during the weekly protest, this was seen as a a miracle [hence Lina Alsaafin’s article “No Miracle Yesterday in Nabi Saleh: Mustafa Tamimi murdered“]. As of March 31, 2011, 64 village residents have been arrested.  All except three were tried for participating in the non-violent demonstrations.  Of those imprisoned, 29 have been minors under the age of 18 years and 4 have been women. With a population of only 550, Nabi Saleh was visibly profoundly affected by the death of Mustafa Tamimi. We will see in the coming months how it changes the nature of Nabi Saleh’s struggle against occupation. May he rest in eternal peace. Allah Yerhamo

No Miracle yesterday in Nabi Saleh: Tamimi murderedElectronic Intifada, Linah Alsaafin: My humanity is only human. I hate my enemy. A deep vigorous hatred that courses through my veins whenever I come into contact with them or any form of their system. My humanity is limited. I cannot write a book titled I Shall Not Hate especially if my three daughters and one niece were murdered by my enemy. My humanity is faulty. I dream of my enemy choking on tear gas fired through the windows of their houses, of having their fathers arrested on trumped-up charges, of them wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets, of them being woken up in the middle of the night and dragged away for interrogations that are spliced with bouts of torture…

Funeral of murdered Mustafa Tamimi ends in more IOF violence & savageryblog account of funeral, Holly Rigby: Covering and protecting the bodies of those trying to be arrested, the women were screaming so loudly for the soldiers to stop and this sound pierced my heart more deeply than any sound bomb could ever have done. As I stood a few paces back from what was happening, my whole body was wracked with uncontrollable sobs as I helplessly looked on as the scene unfolded…

…But we will keep goingblog account of the murder & funerals, Maath Musleh: “It is Mustafa!” someone said. And memories rushed through my head.  I saw the rainy days of spring when we used to climb mountains and hills to avoid the IOF checkpoints blocking entrance to the town. I saw the day I finally managed to reach the town after an hour of hiking through the mountains. I was limping. I was not injured, but my  shoes were torn. I head to Mustafa’s house where I took a nap on mattress near him. I had my tea and cigarette. Mustafa got me his shoes to wear. He refused to take them back at the end of the day…

A courageous Palestinian has died, shrouded in stonesHa’aretz, Jonathon Pollack: The army spokesman was right. Mustafa died because he threw stones; he died because he dared to speak a truth, with his hands, in a place where the truth is forbidden. Any discussion of the manner of the shooting, its legality and the orders on opening fire, infers that the landlord is forbidden to expel the trespasser. Indeed, the trespasser is allowed to shoot the landlord…

Video & testimony: Israeli soldier savagery at Mustafa Tamimi’s funeralElectronic Intifada, Linah Alsaafin: I still can’t comprehend why arrests were made and violence was used by the Israelis. Were our words of truth threatening to them? Were our words of truth threatening their security? Did our words of truth penetrate so deep into their conscience that caused insecurity within themselves?

 Tamimi was killed because of occupied village’s insistence on access to its only wellMondoweiss, Andrew Haas: It was David vs. Goliath, inaccurate slingshots vs. scoped rifles firing lead-cored rubber bullets, taunts and jeering vs. concussion grenades and tear gas, and teens in t-shirts vs. soldiers in body armor. My image of myself as fearless faded as I watched little girls lightly skip out of the way of concussion grenades, and boys compete over who threw the tear gas canisters up wind. To me, this was the next world war. For them, this was a regular day off from school.

I was Mustafa Tamimi – blog, Refaat Alareer: Fifteen years ago I was Mustafa Tamimi. Two months before that it was a relative who had his skull smashed by an explosive bullet from an Israeli sniper. Later that same week another neighbor lost his eye. Before and since then, the same situation has been repeating itself again and again: an armored jeep, a soldier armed to teeth, a tiny figure of mere flesh and bones, and a stone smeared with blood on the side of the road. That’s the saga of Palestine. That’s our tale, full of injustice and oppression, whose hero struts and frets and whoever gets in his way is doomed. But we get in his way anyway.

Nabi Saleh: Night Raids and the weekly protest

Nov 18 & 25 in Nabi Saleh

Specifically, the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh is against the theft of their land and water spring by the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish. More generally, the village is protesting Israeli occupation, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid. Every week, the residents hold a march and are joined in solidarity by other Palestinian, International, and Israeli activists.

In the past week, Israeli military held siege and curfew on the village, and performed a massive night time raid, arresting three residents. Journalist and former Israeli soldier Noam Sheizaf, reported about the incidence of night raids:

“[The occupation] is the ongoing military control over the lives of millions, and everything that comes with it: The lack of civil rights, the absence of legal protection, and perhaps more than anything else, a sense of organized chaos, in which the lives of an entire civilian population is run at the mercy of soldiers 18 to 20 years old. Most of the time, it’s almost hard to explain how bad it is for those who haven’t seen it with their own eyes.
The army enters Palestinian homes as it pleases, day or night. No warrant is needed, just like you don’t need a warrant to arrest a Palestinian (even a minor). Once the soldiers are in the house, the nature of the interaction between them and the family living there depends on their good or ill will – and in the 44 years of the occupation, we have had everything: from “polite” visits, to beatings and cursing, all the way up to the murder of civilians in their beds. A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming, the way most of us can even during unpleasant encounters with the authorities. The important point is that both the Palestinian and the soldier know that.” [Organized Chaos and Bare Life the Non-Story of the Night Raids]

During a night raid in Nariman & Bassem Tamimi's home, a child reacts to | 24.11.2011 | Tamimi press

 To many Palestinians, night raids are such a common occurrence they often go unreported. In reality they are a symbol of the normalized oppression the Palestinians deal with. Armed soldiers entering a home at 2 am and asking for the children to be woken up so their photo can be taken in case they commit a crime in the future – to an outsider this would be worthy of a lawsuit; to the Palestinians, it is a reality that the youngest children are familiar with.

The occupying nation, under international law, is responsible for the safety of the people it occupies; instead the Palestinians are subject to terrorizing invasions, and there is no force they can call for protection.

Soldiers entered over 25 houses in Nabi Saleh while families slept, took pictures of people and rooms, and harassed residents, including a number of women, children, and elders, “filling the village with a state of fear and horror” the Tamimi Press reports from Nabi Saleh. [Nabi Saleh Solidarity WP]

Three young men were their arrested in these raids, including a child: Rami Tamimi, 33, Oudai Tamimi, 19, and Mo’atasim Tamimi, 15. The former two were arrested on the justification that they are needed to testify against Bassem Tamimi in his hearing next week.

Bassem has continually been targeted by the Israeli military. Though he has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, he was never convicted of any offence. He has spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. His house is one of 10 that have received demolition orders since the village began weekly protests. Bassem’s wife, Nariman Tamimi, has been arrested twice, and two of his young sons have been critically injured.

His trial is due to resume this Wednesday, but Bassem has already been behind bars for over seven months, with only five of the 25 prosecution witnesses having been heard to date. Mo’atasem (15) and Oudai (19) are due to testify. There are several legal issues with the way Israel has treated this case. As the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee in Nabi Saleh reported:

“Mo’atasem Tamimi, the fifteen year-old, was grabbed from his bed at gunpoint in the middle of the night on January 27th, 2011, and questioned unlawfully the next morning…

  • Despite having been arrested at 2:30 AM, his interrogation at the police station in the Ma’ale Edomim settlement started at 8:47 AM, in the interim, and despite his young age he was not allowed sleep. Such form of interrogation is forbidden under amendment 14 to the Israeli Youth Law.
  • Despite his young age, Mo’atasem was not offered the opportunity to have his parents present in the room during the interrogation, in violation his rights as set forth by amendment 14 to the Israeli Youth Law.
  • Only one of his two interrogators was a qualified youth interrogator.
  • Contrary to the official transcript of his interrogation, Mo’atasem was not informed of his right to remain silent until he has already started incriminating others. Instead, his interrogator told him: ”You can tell us the truth, or you can lie. Everything you say, will be noted down and be used as evidence against you in court. If you won’t speak, it will strengthen the evidence against you. I say, in your own interest, i say this for you, you had better tell the truth.” The interrogator then went on to tell him, “You are a young boy, if you tell the truth, the court will take this into consideration and go easy on you. Now, you are going to tell us everything as it happened.”” [Nabi Saleh Solidarity WP]

Bassem’s case is not an isolated exception. A study made by the Public Committee Against Torture and Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, and written by Dr. Maya Rosenfeld, says that as many as 90% of Palestinian prisoners in the Shin Bet, Israeli security service, are denied access to a lawyer, and are subject to torture methods.

Demonstrations in Nabi Saleh

As is the case in occupied Palestine, the peaceful weekly demonstrations are met with Israeli army attack. The crowd is bombarded with tear gas grenades, shot alone and aimed directly at individuals, or shot around ten at a time from a mechanism on their military jeep. A hit to the head or the chest has been proven to kill. They can also cause paralysis, and are lethally dangerous to children. Rubber-coated steel bullets are also commonly used and fired directly at the crowds. Israel claims these are a non-lethal crowd dispersal method but a 2008 study by BTselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights, indicated that over twenty Palestinians had been killed by them since the second Intifada began, and that the Israeli military has “adopted a practice of reckless firing of rubber-coated steel bullets.” [B’Tselem 2008 Annual Report]

Rounds of tear gas are fired at protesters in the valley during the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh | 18.11.2011

Quite often in Nabi Saleh, and particularly in recent weeks, the Israeli military arrives with a “skunk truck”, equipped with a cannon that shoots out an oppressively foul-smelling liquid. Last Friday, November 25,  the truck entered the village, past where the demonstration was held, and indiscriminately sprayed houses and people not involved in the protest. The 1949 Geneva convections explicitly label collective punishment as a war crime. Article 33 of the fourth Geneva convection state that “no protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed…collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or terrorism are prohibited.”

A woman jumps out of the way as a high velocity tear gas canister lands in her place | 18.11.2011 Nabi Saleh

As well last Friday, a group of demonstrators managed to approach the soldiers, despite threats: “if you come near we will shoot.” They held their arms in the air and walked up to the soldiers. A group of Palestinian women in particular confronted soldiers about their presence in the village, the night raids, the violent reaction to peaceful demonstrators, and the general occupation in Palestine. “We are all chosen people! We will coexist!” shouted a woman when a soldier said he was willing to risk himself for the illegal Jewish settlers.

Palestinian protesters approach Israeli soldiers | 25.11.2011 | Active Stills

“I’m from this land you’re standing on. Where are you from and what are you doing here?” a young Palestinian girl asked a soldier who spoke very American English. After an hour-long stand-off, the soldiers received orders and began to descend the hill. About two-hundred metres down, they fired rounds of tear gas at the area they knew was full of women and children, and far from any paramedic, causing many to suffer from severe tear gas inhalation.

A Palestinian bravely confronts Israeli soldiers | 25.11.2011 | Active stills

One of the protesters stood in the face of a soldier with his finger on the trigger, “lift this illegal occupation,” he shouted into the soldier’s face, “lift this criminal occupation! Leave our land!”

Strength on a dark day.

Today in Kufr Qaddoum, our peaceful protest was quickly assaulted by the Israeli military in a way unprecedented in my past month attending protests here. Perhaps because it was the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, the soldiers were double their normal number, and were positioned on the hills above ahead of the protest. They planned the assault of the village that was to come.

Children led the procession holding posters of Arafat’s face and happily marching down the village’s main road.

The first time I saw them, these twins ran into the house in a panic, tripping over their words and finishing each others sentences. The soldiers!! - we saw them! - the jeep! - it's coming! - they're going to shoot us - and chase us - and arrest the boys!- HURRY!! As Palestinians manage to do with all things that might break another's heart and spirit - they laughed. What else can you do for the children?

The kids will be shooed back to their homes in a few minutes as we near the soldiers, so they take advantage of the time they have as part of the demonstration.

We continued down the street to reach the barbed wire that closes off their road. This is the cause of the demonstration. Israel closed their main road because it passes by an illegal colonial settlement. Now instead of a quick drive down to the city, Nablus, they must take a roundabout route of 45 minutes. When we stop in front of the barbed wire, a man talking into a speaker begins to remember Yasser Arafat.

Just moments before the demonstration was bombarded with tear gas from a close range.

The soldiers tried to shout orders at the procession through a loud speaker, but the Palestinian man continued his speech un-phased by the interruptions. As he finished his speech, tension grew, some people knowingly began to move back in anticipation for the usual bombardment. Before anyone could get out of the way, tens of high-velocity tear gas canisters were fired at a time, from close-range. If hit in the head, these are lethal. They’ve also been known to cause paralysis and kill children.

Article 14 of the UN Basic Principles:

“In the dispersal of violent assemblies, law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary.”

Tear gas landing among us. Fired at high velocity, a hit to the head is lethal. Otherwise they are known to break bones and/or cause burns or wounds.

Israel is denying Palestinians the Human Right of peaceful assembly and association (UDHR Art. 20-1) by reacting to peaceful forms of protest with violence.

After the first assault of tear gas,  a group of soldiers began to make their way into the village. The soldiers arrested a Palestinian man, 30 year old Hazzem Barham, who was lying down suffering from the tear gas and being attended by a Red Crescent volunteer. They denied him medical attention.

While documenting the arrest of Barham, soldiers then targeted a US activist and arrested him.

Barham and the US activist were taken to the illegal settlement of Ari’el where they are being charged with throwing stones – a charge completely discredited by the video footage taken during the demonstration. The US activist later tells us that within the police station, Barham has been subjected to gross humiliation by both soldiers and settlers inside Ari’el – including being spat on, taken photos of and made to crouch down with his head between his legs.

A video of the two arrests taken by a colleague:

They fired several rounds of tear gas, including several about 200 metres away from the protesters, right in between civilian homes. A few minutes later a young boy emerged vomiting, and in a second was picked up by men, passed to a Red Crescent worker, and brought to the ambulance where he was treated with an oxygen mask. He appeared to lose consciousness when lying in the ambulance.

Soldiers began to chase the procession deeper into the town. They fired several tear gas canisters, and we began to run.

But as people ran, countless more began to be fired, following the protesters as they ran. They continued to shoot tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at a crowd that was running away. We were choking and running as fast as we could for a single breath of air.

A Red Crescent worker unconcious from severe tear gas inhalation is brought into the mosque which shortly after is hit with tear gas. (The same RC worker that is helping others in the previous 2 pictures)

Many of the protesters ran to the mosque nearby, the place injured protesters are always taken for treatment because it is the safe-haven during the protester. Six were treated with tear gas inhalation, and three were hit with tear gas canisters. Tear gas began to be fired in rounds from an adjacent mountain, and even hit the mosque.

It was two hours of this before the soldiers withdrew, followed by a crowd of villagers to ensure that they left.

At the end of this assault, much worse than I’ve seen in my time visiting Kufr Qaddoum, it seemed that everyone at the protest went to the city council centre and was fed a traditional Palesitnian meal, msakhan, served by the tons! Out of context this is a sad day. We lost two protesters, many were injured, the town is littered with tear gas canisters, sound bombs, and rubber-coated bullets. Kids ran to me and showed me live ammo bullets they had found afterwards. But in reality, the procession left smiling and ready for the next moment because after years of having their road closed, they are finally fighting for their rights. I know that Palestine is strong because her people do not consume themselves in self-pity, but in courage, passion, and an unwavering joy for life.

 

Kufr Qaddoum gassed again

This is yet another report from Kufr Qaddoum’s weekly protests. Tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated steel bullets. I had to go in an ambulance, and from inside I witnessed another man require oxygen from gas inhalation, and one man who had broken his foot after being hit by one of the high-velocity gas canisters. Also families were affected when the soldiers entered the village. Protesters were unarmed and the soldiers were heavily armed. Here is the report!:

The Israeli army assaulted peaceful protesters in Kufr Qaddoum with tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs, injuring two and causing severe tear gas suffocation for three families, including five children, and two protesters, including an International Solidarity Movement activist.
Approximately 250 protesters were present, including children, and international and Israeli activists.

One Palestinian broke his foot when a high-velocity tear gas canister hit him, and is being transferred to Jordan for special treatment. Another protester was injured when a a tear gas canister hit him in the hand. Three families were forced to evacuate their homes when soldiers fired tear gas in between their homes. Five children were witnessed crying and running out of their homes and away from the approaching soldiers. Two protesters were treated with oxygen after severe tear gas inhalation, including a female ISM activist who fell unconscious.

A Palestinian man broke his foot when he was hit by a tear gas canister and is being transferred to Jordan for special treatment

Children lead the protest holding posters praising Mahmoud Abbas and UNESCO, and calling Avigdor Lieberman a “racist” and “terrorist”. As the march progressed to where soldiers were stationed, most of the children dispersed and protesters stopped in front of the barbed wire marking the street as closed,  about 15 metres from the soldiers.

The Israeli commander approached and spoke to some of the Palestinians, attempting to set rules but demonstrators refused to recognize these rules without Israel first acknowledging that the road is their legal right to use.


Soon after, soldiers fired several rounds of tear gas. They continued to shoot tear gas in bunches for the next hour. For the first hour, the protesters kept returning after each round of gas. The soldiers then began to advance on the road into the village. They began to fire rubber-coated steel bullets and sound bombs as well as the gas. At this point the three families evacuated their homes.
Protesters continued to come back at them despite the dangerous situation, and eventually the soldiers left the street and the demonstration ended.


The Palestinian-led demonstration has occurred weekly in Kufr Qaddoum for the past 19 weeks. The village was involved in a legal battle for six years concerning the closure of their main road because it runs parallel to the illegal Israeli settlement of Qadumim. During this time there were no protests. The Israeli court finally ruled in their favour, but the road was then closed because it is not “suitable” or “safe” for travel. 5 months ago the protests resumed. Since the road has been closed, Kufr Qaddoum residents must take an indirect road to reach Nablus, which increases transportation from 15 minutes to 40 minutes. This has resulted in hardships, particularly because there is no hospital in the village and residents must drive to Nablus for care, and due to the increased price of transport for the many students who study in Nablus.

Two protests, One day

Ofer Prison, Ramallah

A protest in support of the Palestinian prisoners in Ofer who have been on hunger strike for the past 15 days refusing food to pressure authorities into providing better conditions.

The hunger strike has rolled through most of Israel’s 23 lockups, where some 5,300 Palestinians are detained, often without trial.

For 3-4 hours, soldiers continually fired tear gas, 5 or 10 at a time at unarmed protesters, shot steel-coated rubber bullets, and turned on “the scream” siren (a siren that can be directed at protesters without soldiers hearing it, which is so loud it can damage the ears and cause one to lose equilibrium).

In the above picture you can see the high-velocity tear gas canister still in the air. It has been known to kill if it hits the head or chest, and give serious burns anywhere else.

Several collapsed throughout the protest from tear gas inhalation.

I watched this boy walk down the sidewalk, turn around, and fall so gracefully to the ground that no one noticed for a moment. In the next moment everyone was running to him.

One boy was hit in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet.

Al Khalil/Hebron- School Children protest tightened security for their teachers

The teachers of the school in Tel Rumeida have had, for the past 7 years, permission to pass through a gate instead of the metal detectors at the checkpoint entrance. Now, the commander of the new batallion, has changed the rules to force teachers, pregnant women, and those with heart conditions to pass through the metal detectors. The teachers refused and protested by soliciting outside the checkpoint but refusing to go through.

Then, the over 100 children came out of the school chanting, and confronted the soldiers, demanding their teachers’ rights. Police became aggressive with children and dragged some of them out through the checkpoint, injuring seven.

I constantly spoke to soldiers asking them why they were harassing the Palestinians, when they know it is the Israeli settlers in the neighbourhood that are very often violent. One admitted that he did not agree with the extra security but that he had to “protect the Jewish people.”

During the protest a settler woman kept driving through so she could bump protesters with her car, mostly children. People say that this settler is infamous for hitting Palestinians with her car as they walk in Tel Rumeida, where Palestinians are not allowed to drive.

They ended up doing their classes in the street, and will continue to until the laws are reverted.

This is a link to the report I wrote: Seven School Children Injured over Tightened “Security” Measures in Tel Rumeida